When I bought the ticket for this show, I didn’t realize that it was on the same day as the US Presidential election. I was well aware of both dates for some time, but somehow it took until the day before for me to piece together that the election’s November 8, 2016 and the concert’s November 8, 2016 were, in fact, the same day. I had already decided not to watch election results, so I was thankful to have the distraction.
Needless to say, I spent much of the show on my phone. I also thought the show itself was only okay, but it’s pretty hard to tell how much of that was the show and how much of that was my worsening mood as the night progressed. I had big plans of coming home and writing the review right away while it was fresh in my mind, but instead we watched the news and said a bunch of things about our southern neighbours that didn’t make us feel any better.
You don’t read these for my political opinions (one wonders why you read them at all) so I will just say that I will hope against all logic and reason that the next four years are mostly okay and not the racist, misogynist, transphobic, anti-immigrant pants-shittingly reckless dumpster fire that this campaign and Trump’s entire life would lead one to expect.
We had a trip to Nashville planned for this coming August, but we haven’t booked anything yet and we’ll be re-evaluating this choice in a few months. If you caught me on election night, I was a hard “no,” but… total solar eclipse? On my birthday? That I’ve been anticipating for seriously like 30 years? I’d be really disappointed to miss it. But I also recognize that “having to vacation somewhere else” is a pretty petty concern when I think of what this election could mean for a lot of people.
Also, to any American readers, yes, we have a guest room, but Mika says that I’m only allowed to offer it to my gay and/or brown friends. My straight white American friends have to stay behind and fix shit. I don’t have a firm answer as to whether she’s also offering guest room amnesty to my American Jewish friends, and I don’t think she’d appreciate me waking her up to fact-check this.
I like how “I will just say” was followed by three paragraphs.
So! Bif Naked. I became a fan through Kristin, but that was a long time ago. I’ve seen her twice, back in 2000 and 2001. Pat was at the 2000 show and told me all about how he wanted to go to Fiji. I remember that conversation (Boolah! Ramram!) but forgot that show ever happened. I did remember seeing Bif with Kristin in 2001, only I thought it was in Winnipeg. Nope. And hey, Static in Stereo and LiveOnRelease opened? I’ve seen them? I’m pretty sure you could sneak anything you want into my Word document of old concert reviews and Future James will believe it. Maybe you already did.
Anyway, over time my tastes shifted, I became less interested with each successive album, and eventually just quit following her career. It happens. This show was probably going to be the first time I’d even heard Bif’s music in a decade, and I was really interested to see how I felt about it. Plus, she wrote a book, and this was basically her book tour. The show was going to be acoustic songs interspersed with stories and readings, so it was guaranteed to be different than her other shows I’d seen.
The tickets said “doors at 8:00,” which is later than most shows at the Exchange, so I was skeptical. I drove up around 7:55 and sure enough, there was a line from the door down to the street and partway down the block. I was already expecting to stand in the back, off to one side, so I didn’t think there was much reason to join the horde. I parked, sat there for 15 minutes playing games on my phone, and eventually wandered over – only to find that the line hadn’t really moved. But whatever, by then I was committed, so I waited for another 10 minutes or so until I got inside.
Once in the building, I was surprised to see the floor full of chairs. I suppose it made sense for an acoustic show. I was even more surprised to see how many chairs were empty, considering the show was sold out and the people ahead of me in line were only able to buy their way in because not all the tickets set aside for comps wound up getting used. I don’t know if there were a lot of people who stayed home to watch election results or if the Exchange just set out every chair they own. Whatever it was, I had a good view and enough space to stretch out.
The opener was Jordan Alexander, who met Bif while working at a bookstore in Toronto. She played mostly her own songs on guitar, with a little sampler keyboard deal (I couldn’t really see it) for playing backing tracks. She also threw in a few covers, including Teenage Dirtbag by Wheatus, saying that we probably hadn’t heard her songs yet (true) since her album just came out, and she figured we’d like to hear something we knew. This was all fine, though the best moment was a happy accident. She was playing a song that she wrote for her best friend, and she stopped about a minute in, thinking she was playing it in the wrong key (which I don’t think she was, but like I’d know). After fiddling with the sampler machine for a second, she gave up on it and decided to play the song just on guitar instead. Not only did she handle the situation with a great sense of humour, but it wound up being the best song she played. One guy behind me yelled “now throw it away and never use the backing tracks again” and I would have to concur. I’m sure it’s a nice safety net to have when performing, but she showed she didn’t need it. The crowd wasn’t paying much attention to her at first, but this did a fine job of winning them over. Not that she needed this song’s help – she also came across as the most likable person ever. Would go see again.
A quick break and then we were joined by Bif Naked, who said that tonight we were not going to think about our neighbours to the south. I tried, but y’know. Also on stage was Snake. Snake is Bif’s husband, and not a literal snake (I know, I saw his arms). I’m sure Snake has a real name but then so does “Bif Naked” and real names are unnecessary.
Like I said, this was an acoustic tour, with Bif reading stories from her book and singing songs while Snake played acoustic guitar with his human arms. The stories were really good and I’d be interested in reading this book at some point. Bif’s had quite an eventful existence. The songs were mostly taken from her earlier albums, so largely stuff I knew, and some of her more personal songs. Some of them made the transition to acousticness (?) quite well, like Lucky, Chotee, Spaceman, and Daddy’s Getting Married. Others not so much. Tango Shoes didn’t work for me. And I Love Myself Today felt like it was two people performing two different songs at once. I’m surprised that one didn’t come together when the best version of that song I’ve ever heard was a capella (in front of an audience of two, no less – very intimate house concert).
I don’t really know how I feel about this show. I enjoyed some songs, didn’t care much for others, and I don’t think my tastes have swung back her way – but as I mentioned, by the end of things, my head was no longer in the game. I Love Myself Today was the last song she did, and by that point, the election results were obvious, and it felt almost ridiculous to even be thinking about music right then. There was no encore, and I was fine with that, because I was done at that point anyway.
Certain members of the audience also tried their best to drag the proceedings down. One exceptional fellow – drunk, stupid, or some combination thereof – could not grasp that this was not a normal rock show and also that he was not the star of said show. Bif is reading a passage about finding out she has cancer and going through chemotherapy, and this shitbird jackoff is hollering I LOVE YOU BIF IT’S MY BIRTHDAY TODAY I WANT A BIRTHDAY HUG! Like, dude, shut the fuck up. And later on, she’s talking about being a sixteen-year-old runaway who got rescued from what appeared to be a prostitution ring from a friendly cab driver, and she’s thinking that she’s going to have to perform sexual favours for the cabbie in exchange for his help, and this dude in the crowd is yelling YEAAHHHH! I already said “dude, shut the fuck up,” but seriously. This is not a fun sexy time story at all. And also maybe don’t demand that strangers touch you, especially if you suck and are gross. When I left, the guy was waiting to buy a book, by which I assume I mean “not buy a book but demand a birthday hug” because obviously that was where this was going, and some people who were sitting near him were trying to decide whether or not they should confront him about how he was behaving. I didn’t stick around to see how this played out but I’d be pretty fine with it if they Negan’d his head all over the parking lot.
That is not a nice thought or a nice way to end this. So there’s this: the only thing the cab driver made Bif do is call her mom. Bif later dedicated her first album to him. There are good people. I like them.
Jian Ghomeshi, Pt. 6
It has been a while since we updated on this case, so here is some recent news of note from the last couple of months (in reverse chronological order, meaning most recent at the top, of course):
1) Ghomeshi now faces three new charges of sex assault, bring the total to six women. He is out on bail and his next court date is February 4.
2) It was announced that two high-level CBC executives were put on immediate leave in the wake of the scandal.
3) His publicist fought publication of a planned Toronto Life story about his love life.
4) CBC is removing (almost all) of Ghomeshi’s interviews from their online content “for now.”
Ani Difranco – Reprieve*
I fell in love with this record. I hear a lot of Ani, and this one was just completely arresting. Yes, it’s a bit dark, with hurricane Katrina on its mind, but all the emotional, political, cultural and personal insight is fully intact. If you buy one Ani album this week, make it this one. Amazing!
Ani Difranco – Not A Pretty Girl*
This, her fourth album, straddles her early days acoustic poetry slammings and her more experimental later stuff. Songs like Worthy and 32 Flavors are well known, where something like The Million You Never Made (among all the others), or Tiptoe, with its incredible intro, are other hits you need to hear. This is gritty, real, and fantastic.
Bif Naked – I Bificus
This is one I always knew about, and of course I had heard songs like Moment Of Weakness and Chotee, which I’m sure you’ll know as well. To step back and look at the album as a whole I recognize it as a very vital, energetic, excellent rock record chock full of great songs, while Lucky and Any Day Now offer some rest from the loud and fast. But all of it demands your attention, as you spin through. Very excellent record.
My copy has Boomtang Boys Mixes of Spaceman and Lucky tacked onto the end, which I thought totally sucked. I hate dance mixes, even on songs where it isn’t so much of a stretch (Spaceman). Blech. Completely skippable.
Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin^
Holiday always had a knack for conveying sadness and pain with such beauty so this, recorded not very long before her death and with her voice cracking and fragile and yet still so damn arresting, is unquestionably required listening for any and all of you who don’t yet own it. The production is so clear that, in the good headphones, it sounds like she’s right here in front of me. Absolutely mind-blowing. ESSENTIAL.
* Purchased during last year’s trip to Toronto with Mike!
^ Mine is a CD remaster of this 1958 classic.
Oddly Enough, Zellers Makes My Day, Part 1
I was in Zellers for highly unrelated reasons today, but of course I gravitated towards the CD bins where they sell Baha Men albums by the fistful to people looking for novelty coasters. Too often, I am completely disappointed by my time spent digging through the kids’ bible music and weirdo yoga relaxation CDs, but today I found two gems that shouldn’t even have been there at all.
Some of you know that my TV is not hooked to the outside world. I haven’t lived with cable for over 13 years, so I miss everything (by choice). For example, a show called Rock Star Supernova, where Jason Newstead, Tommy Lee and Gilby Clarke are looking for a lead singer of a new band they’ve formed. I don’t know (or care) if it’s still going, but they made a CD and I bought it because it has Newstead on it. I don’t know the singer, but whatever. This is a really sweet find. I will review it shortly.
Oddly Enough, Zellers Makes My Day, Part 2
You’ll recall that, recently, I was on about what was surely the Hot Hot Heat’s song being used in an ad that’s played at my work. As a result, I heard from one of the band members and that conversation went on for a while and even revealed the band’s work on a NEW RECORD!! I hope that tidbit of news makes you as happy as it makes me!
Anyway – and sorry guys but it’s what happened – I also found a copy of HHH’s “Scenes One Through Thirteen” in the same bin. I couldn’t believe it was there. So undeserving. But, hooray! I didn’t have this one yet! So of course I rescued it and brought it to a warm and safe home here with me. I will be reviewing it soon as well. I can’t wait to hear it!
Props To Bif
This paragraph will go to show you just how out of the loop I really am (and how little music news I read, apparently). You see, I had no idea about Bif Naked’s recent battles with cancer. So I was shocked by the news in the paper, and thrilled to learn all in the same moment that she is getting better and is ready to rock again.
Much power to you, Bif. You go, girl!
A Hip Correction, The First Single, and a Concert Attendance Update
First off, a correction: I had erroneously trumpeted the new Hip album’s title in these pages as “We Are All The Same.” Later, I have come to find out that the correct title is “We Are The Same.” Apologies to anyone and everyone.
I heard the first single, Love Is A First, on the local rawk radio station the other day. As has happened with the last few new tracks on the past few new albums from the band, it didn’t initially grab me. I wondered why they chose that particular song out of an album full of surely great tracks. And then I realized the damn thing was totally stuck in my head, and better still it was playing over and over. Sneaky bastards, those Hip people. I’ll betcha the song will be even better live.
And on that note, we will not likely be attending the local Hip show here, in June. I know, I know. I love them to pieces. But I just can’t hack their crowds. I must be getting old. Besides, rumour has it that the venue hadn’t even given permission for the show to happen there before the radio began blaring the dates and times. Something odd about the whole thing.
Jimmy Fallon’s House Band?!?!
OK, so I followed a link on Pitchfork and watched Public Enemy play their hit Bring The Noise for the millionth time, this time on Fallon’s show. Stranger still, this great performance was also celebrating Flavor Flav’s 50th birthday. Folks, the dude with the clock around his neck is 50! Imagine.
What floored me even more was reading that the Roots are Fallon’s house band for the Late Show. Uh, what? This established, headlining act is trapped in TV-land now? I just don’t know how I feel about this, but my gut says it ain’t good. Do you care? Does it matter? I dunno. I always liked The Roots for being individual, real, different. And now they’re supplying drumrolls for late night schtick-humour gags. I dunno. I just dunno.